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We might finally know why Earth’s north magnetic pole is moving

Published Dec 28th, 2022 10:07PM EST
Earth in space
Image: Tryfonov / Adobe

When you think of the North Pole’s location, you probably imagine it is the centermost point at the top of our planet. However, the North Magnetic Pole has actually been moving gradually since away from the location it was first documented back in the 1830s. Now, scientists say we may finally understand why it’s moving.

A new study published in the journal Nature Geoscience suggests that the changes in the North Pole’s location are explained by the movement of molten material in Earth’s interior. This, they say, has caused a titanic shift in the planet’s magnetic field. Essentially, the molten iron at the core of our planet helps to determine where Earth’s magnetic field downs down.

Earth's magnetic field controls the north pole's location
A diagram showing how the Earth’s magnetic field points downward and also how it protects from solar radiation. Image source: koya979 / Adobe

It is this exact position that is affected by the movements of the planet’s core. And, as this position changes, so too does the North Pole’s location. Scientists say that the current direction of the pole’s movement is caused by a “blip in the pattern” of the flow inside of the Earth’s interior. This blip, they believe, occurred somewhere between 1970 and 1999.

Because the blip happened, the Canadian field of the North Pole itself has become elongated, losing its influence over the Earth’s magnetosphere. This has caused the North Pole’s location to move quickly towards a magnetic field located under Siberia. The researchers say that our northern magnetic pole is controlled by these two patches, or blobs.

And it’s these blobs that have kept the North Pole’s location in a constant state of tug of war. But, because the Canadian portion of this field has elongated and become weaker, the pole’s location has quickly found itself drawn to the field in Siberia. 

Of course, this doesn’t change the physical location of the North Pole, but it could have huge implications for the planet’s magnetic field, which is responsible for keeping the planet’s rotation in order, as well as for protecting against charged solar energy from solar flares and storms. This field is also important for navigation systems like GPS and even the compass.

Josh Hawkins has been writing for over a decade, covering science, gaming, and tech culture. He also is a top-rated product reviewer with experience in extensively researched product comparisons, headphones, and gaming devices. Whenever he isn’t busy writing about tech or gadgets, he can usually be found enjoying a new world in a video game, or tinkering with something on his computer.